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I'm trying to get help producing a song. But I was asked to sing to a tempo, so they can have a BPM to create background stuff. I asked how to do that exactly, and they couldn't give me a straight answer.

So I'm just confused - would the tempo be by every word I sing generally? Or just how do I do that?

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They mean that you should play to a click track (metronome) so that your tempo stays steady throughout the entire song. If you're not sure what tempo is, try this:

  • Sing your song exactly as you have been
  • But tap your foot (or clap your hands or whatever) while you're doing it in a way that feels natural. Don't try to sing different to make it fit, just yet. Just try to tap along to what you're already doing.

If you were able to do that without much trouble then that—how fast or slow you were tapping your foot—is your tempo. If not, then it's possible that your song doesn't have a single steady tempo. Imagine a lounge singer singing without a backing band or just solo at the piano. They may speed up and slow down to increase the drama or to otherwise invoke a different feeling. That's ok too, and a good producer should be able to deal with that. But it may not be what the person helping you had in mind.

Assuming your song does have a discernible tempo—and it probably does—what they want is for you to use a feature on your recording device/software to tap that tempo for you while you sing along. People have a tendency to speed up and slow down a bit over the course of the song. But the metronome on your recording software will stay stable throughout the entire song and thus cause you to stick to the tempo as well. That will make it a lot easier for them to drop in an instrumental behind your vocals.

The exact process for how you'd set up and sing along to a click track depends on your recording process. So you may want to edit your post and let us know how you recorded it including the software and hardware used.

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Singing alone, it's hard to keep to a steady tempo, or keep in the same key. The key may not matter too much if you're making rap-type tracks, but the tempo does if you want it to fit in with a 'beat'.

We could suggest ways to achieve this with the equipment you're likely to have available. But are you dealing with some kind of online service who claim they'll 'produce' something given just your vocal? It's only one step away from a scam.
Much better find a local friend who's interested in the computer-music stuff and needs a vocalist. Work WITH him. Much more fun, and much more productive.

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For pop/rock, likely the direct answer is you want to sing over a scratch rhythm track. That can be anything from the built-in rhythm pattern on a keyboard on up to having a drummer, and possibly bassist, record a basic track for the entire song. Starting with prepackaged drum loops or programming something simple into a drum machine program is likely a good way to go.

At some level, a metronome accomplishes the same purpose, but the drum track will give more of a feel and provides a lot more support for most singers. The tricky bit is some songs may require a fair bit of sophistication in crafting a good scratch track. Finding an existing song that has the right rhythmic feel and then making a minimal rhythm track that is similar can be useful. One possibility may be to get such a track from the folks you are working with. If there is little notion of what that might sound like, then figuring that out might be a good first step.

This requires being setup to record while listening to playback. Ideally this would be actual synced multitrack recording so the end result is a vocal track that can be played back with the rhythm track, but the important part is that the vocal sits on top of some rhythm track, not the specific one. Ending up with just a vocal would be fine if it has adequately defined rhythm.

This applies to fragments of a song as well as an entire piece. It is very useful if recording sections to see how they fit together as they'll have more consistent time.

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